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The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

The Overpopulation Myth – Article by Arin Vahanian

Arin Vahanian


Of all the objections to life extension, one of the most pernicious is that there are too many people on Earth. Indeed, this objection in particular is rather harmful not just because it appears to advocate for suffering and death, but also because it appears to be a valid objection on a surface level.

Visions of mass starvation, billions of people living in deplorable conditions, and wars over resources, help fuel the popularity of this objection. However fascinating these sorts of overly dramatic, sensational Hollywood scenarios may seem to some people, believing in the inevitability of these scenarios would be ignoring the countless ways that science and technology have allowed us, time and again, to exceed our limitations, improve health outcomes, and create a better environment for humanity to thrive in.

There are many reasons why these dreadful scenarios continue to exist in peoples’ minds. One of the reasons why doomsday thinking has managed to remain a part of our zeitgeist is because the entertainment industry is addicted to it, constantly proliferating nightmarish scenarios of technology being a destructive force hell-bent on the devastation of humanity and the world. A less obvious reason is also because some well-meaning influential people have been fabulously wrong and have continued to double-down on being wrong over the years.

Biologist Paul Ehrlich famously said in 1968 that “The battle to feed all of humanity is over. In the 1970s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate.”

Looking at this statement more than 50 years later, Paul Ehrlich wasn’t just wrong, he was completely wrong. None of his Malthusian predictions even came close to being true. I suppose that supporters of this sort of doomsday thinking will say in response that even though Ehrlich has been wrong for decades, he will one day be right. Even if a broken clock is right twice a day, we shouldn’t base the future of humanity on such faulty thinking. While it is possible for these horrific scenarios to come true, it does not mean that these scenarios are destiny. Humanity has weathered challenges and difficulties en route to coming up with amazing technological and medical innovations that have improved the quality of life for billions of people. And while challenges such as climate change should be taken very seriously, the fact that these challenges exist does not mean that humanity is doomed. It simply means that we need to make adjustments and to utilize science and technology to their fullest in order to resolve these threats.

Further, rather than extrapolate wildly and bring forth doomsday scenarios, we should bring forth data and facts to support our arguments. As I mentioned in a previous article, according to The World Bank and the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the worldwide population growth rate is slowing down and is projected to eventually stabilize and begin falling. Nowhere is this more apparent than in countries such as Germany, Italy, Spain, China, Russia, and even the United States, where birth rates are below the 2.1 live births per woman required to just maintain population equilibrium. Additionally, even countries such as India, which used to have a very high birth rate, have seen huge declines in birth rates in recent years. Finally, according to a study published in the Lancet, the global population is expected to peak at 9.73 billion in 2064, before dropping to 8.79 billion in 2100. As a result, more than 23 countries are likely to see their populations halve by the end of this century. This includes countries such as Spain, Italy, Ukraine, and China.

Even if the above trends were somehow reversed, and human beings suddenly began reproducing more, we would be able to accommodate the increased population through solutions such as seasteading, vertical farming, 3D printing, and nanotechnology. Indeed, these technologies, and more, are among the many that would allow us to overcome limitations and alleviate potential threats resulting from an increased population. And I have not even begun speaking about space exploration.

The simple fact is that there is no fixed number of people who should be living on Earth at any given moment. In fact, we should rightfully be laughed out of the room if we asked the question, “What should the world’s population be?” We may as well ask how long a piece of string is. How many people is too many people? Further, how does one decide how many people is too many? Do you see how absurd this sort of thinking is? Even if we were to run detailed calculations on how many people the Earth could accommodate at any given point in time, what is true right now may not be true later, as planet Earth is dynamic, human beings are dynamic, and the forces of physics are dynamic. More importantly, we would be ignoring the awesome power of technology to allow us to do more, with less.

Therefore, let us move away from the pessimism, the doomsday scenarios, and the lack of vision, and move toward data, facts, science, and technological innovations that have allowed us, and will continue to allow us, to accommodate the needs of humanity. This does not mean that we should ignore challenges and perils and hope that everything will work out in the end. It does mean, however, that we should recognize the threats humanity is facing, and then take swift, concerted action toward eliminating those threats by using advancements in science, technology, and modern medicine.

But to go back to the topic, and frame the argument in a simpler way, one might want to ask proponents of the overpopulation myth whether they would have wanted their own parents to hold the same views about there being too many people on Earth. Of course, such critics of life extension would never want this to be the case, because it would mean that they themselves would not exist.

I would urge those who are critical of life extension to refrain from trying to decide how many people should be living on Earth. Indeed, rather than playing judge, jury, and executioner, I would recommend them to take a look in the mirror and appreciate the tremendous gift they were given – the gift of life. Had their parents held the faulty belief that there are too many people on Earth, these critics wouldn’t be able to offer their criticisms now. I am not suggesting that people should not offer valid criticisms of life extension. Nor am I suggesting that we gloss over the present and future challenges the Earth is facing. I am suggesting, however, that critics provide data, facts, and valid arguments to support their conclusions, rather than paint doomsday scenarios and claim that there are “too many people already.”  Indeed, the next time you hold a loved one in your arms, think about how you would feel if this person had never been born, or if this person was mercilessly ripped away from you.

So far, the likes of Thomas Malthus and Paul Ehrlich have been completely wrong with their predictions, though it is possible for them and others like them, to be right someday. However, we should not take pleasure in being right, we should take pleasure in being better people. Being right is not what is important – being able to actualize oneself, improve the human condition, and make the world a better place to live, is what is important. And we cannot do that if we extrapolate wildly, spread fear, and insist that humanity is doomed. The truth is that humanity’s future hasn’t even been written yet. But when we do write it, we should do so utilizing the best that science and technology have to offer, in order to improve the human condition.  Overpopulation, calamity, and starvation are not destiny – but human improvement is, and has been, since the dawn of time.

Arin Vahanian is the Vice-Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. 

Second Virtual Debate Among U.S. Transhumanist Party Presidential Candidates – August 3, 2019

Second Virtual Debate Among U.S. Transhumanist Party Presidential Candidates – August 3, 2019

Johannon Ben Zion
Charles Holsopple
Rachel Haywire
Moderated by Gennady Stolyarov II


The second virtual debate among U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party candidates for President of the United States took place on Saturday, August 3, 2019, at 3 p.m. U.S. Pacific Time. Watch the debate on YouTube here.

Candidates Charles Holsopple, Rachel Haywire, and Johannon Ben Zion provided updates regarding their campaigns thus far, answered challenging candidate-specific questions, addressed questions from the audience, and had the opportunity for rebuttals and interactions. In this debate, the USTP strived for maximal transparency to provide USTP members the amplest possible relevant information for them to make their decision regarding the USTP’s nominee for President of the United States during the forthcoming Electronic Primary, for which voting will open on September 22, 2019.

Steele Archer of the Debt Nation program also continuous livestreamed the debate, along with pre-debate and post-debate commentary. Watch the video of his stream here.

Learn about the USTP candidates here.

View individual candidate profiles:

Johannon Ben Zion
Rachel Haywire
Charles Holsopple

Join the U.S. Transhumanist Party / Transhuman Party for free, no matter where you reside. Apply in less than a minute here.

Those who join the USTP by September 21, 2019, will be eligible to vote in the Electronic Primary beginning on September 22, 2019.

 


The U.S. Transhumanist Party Responds to Jeremy Rifkin’s Plan for a Third Industrial Revolution

The U.S. Transhumanist Party Responds to Jeremy Rifkin’s Plan for a Third Industrial Revolution

Gennady Stolyarov II


Photograph of Jeremy Rifkin by Stephan Röhl

Editor’s Note: Below is a response to Jeremy Rifkin’s plan for a Third Industrial Revolution: A Radical New Sharing Economy by Gennady Stolyarov II, Chairman of the U.S. Transhumanist Party. The original post of this documentary can be found here.

    ~ Dinorah Delfin, Director of Admissions and Public Relations, U.S. Transhumanist Party, March 10, 2018

When it comes to Jeremy Rifkin’s thoughts on the future, and what humankind will and will not be able to accomplish, Arthur C. Clarke’s famous First Law encapsulates my reaction: “When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.”

I think that Rifkin has many ideas that would be aligned with transhumanism, although his general worldview is not transhumanist in itself. I wholly support the concepts of the sharing economy, the goal of production at zero marginal cost, and the smart infrastructure that he describes would support the Third Industrial Revolution. A redesign of our infrastructure – especially in such a way that would facilitate modular upgrades at a local and even individual level – is essential for overcoming some of the current bottlenecks to technological progress and rising standards of living. I also think that Rifkin is correct that, in the short term, building this new infrastructure will require humans and will mean jobs for those humans. This is probably a good thing, although it is dependent on whether the systems for financing the new projects and appropriately recruiting and treating the workers (e.g., giving them high-quality jobs with good pay, safety precautions, and ample assistance from machines and narrow AIs where possible) can come together in time.

Where I think Rifkin falls short of the transhumanist vision is in his rejection of the goal of a society where basic human problems – including mortality and many of the other key causes of suffering – can be eliminated or at least greatly reduced. He characterizes this as “utopian” thinking, but at every stage of the way, the approach toward these goals would not be utopia, but rather steady improvement. It would be a shame to reject the goals especially as the technologies for making them possible are becoming available. As I have often stated, it is not a matter of if we will have indefinite life extension, but when – and this matters a lot from the standpoint of how many people alive today could be saved.

Where I also differ from Rifkin is that, instead of his focus on the negative (“humans are destroying the Earth”), I and the Transhumanist Party prefer to focus on the positive potentials (humans can improve both our own lives and the Earth through emerging technologies). Many of the solutions may look quite similar – e.g., smart infrastructure, greater energy-efficiency, and renewable energy sources that would move humankind away from fossil fuels (although, unlike Rifkin, I also strongly support the next generation of nuclear reactors, which would use thorium, would be meltdown-proof, and would not be subject to the need for cooling via massive amounts of water that Rifkin criticizes). I think that the way forward is through technological advancement; Rifkin is halfway there – certainly much better than the Neo-Luddite thinkers who have often dominated the environmental movement. But his goals are not in conflict with life extension, massive economic growth, and super-abundance of material prosperity for everyone. In fact, humans need to move along all of these avenues simultaneously and in parallel, as their achievements will reinforce one another and enable progress to occur more readily.

Article III, Section IX of our Platform – http://transhumanist-party.org/constitution/#Article3 – actually summarizes this sentiment quite nicely: “The United States Transhumanist Party supports all emerging technologies that have the potential to improve the human condition – including but not limited to autonomous vehicles, electric vehicles, economical solar power, safe nuclear power, hydroelectricity, geothermal power, applications for the sharing of durable goods, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, nanotechnology, robotics, rapid transit, 3D printing, vertical farming, electronic devices to detect and respond to trauma, and beneficial genetic modification of plants, animals, and human beings.”

Again, Clarke’s First Law comes to mind. To the extent that Rifkin sees potential in any of the above technologies and others, he is correct. To the extent that he does not see it or considers those technologies to be detrimental, he is mistaken.